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23 September – Berlin

Today was a fantastic day in Berlin. The one good thing about the hostel was it advertisement for a free (yes free) walking tour of the city and sights. The guide picked us up from the hostel, took us on the subway to Brandenburger Tor where “Sandman’s Free Walking Tours” starts (if you go look for the red shirts at 10am, 1pm and 4pm!). The English tours were headed by two Aussies (you can’t escape them Europe, I swear the census must miss a few million travelling Aussies each time its done). We had an Aussie girl Annabelle and she was so fantastic, very well versed in German and Berlin history, was very funny and overall an excellent tour guide. I will point that although the tour is free these guys do work off commission, so needless to say she took home a good days pay.

So we started at the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenberg gate) the symbol of Berlin and once the boundary between east and west. Built in 1791, its crowned by the Quadriga, a winged Goddess of Victory in a four horse chariot. It was once stolen by the French and then stolen back by the Germans and now sits on what is called Pariser Platz keeping a close eye on the French embassy located on the same square. Just off the platz is the Reichstag, where at midnight on 2 October 1990 the reunification of Germany was enacted.

From the stag we walked to the European holocaust memorial, then to the site of Hitler’s bunker where he committed suicide and the SS burnt his body. Nothing remains of the bunker and the Germans are unsure what to do with patch of land as they don’t want it to become a ‘cult’ site for nazi’s.

From the bunker we headed to the wall, the Berlin wall of course past the building that was Nazi air force headquarters and now houses the taxation office!

There are only 2 or 3 parts of the wall remaining (most was demolished by the people extremely quickly). It also sits alongside the site of the SS and Gestapo Headquarters mostly destroyed but what is remaining is a part of an exhibition. From the actual wall we following the cobblestone bricks marking its original path up what was known as the death strip to checkpoint Charlie a famous major crossing between east and west during the cold war.

From Charlie we we wandered up the 5th Ave. of Berlin to Gendarmenmarkt an elegant square with a trio of magnificent buildings: the Französischer Dom (French cathedral), Deutscher dom (German cathedral) and the Konzerthaus (concert hall) and nearby the W.W.I Memorial.

From we went up the street to Bebalplatz site of the Nazi’s first book burning on 10 May 1933, previously home to the royal library now a law faculty building, the catholic cathedral and across from here the Berliner dome a great neo-renaissance dome from 1904 is the bombastic former court church of the Hohenzollern family. Opposite the berliner dome is the palace of the republic currently in the process of being torn down, it occupies the site of the bombed, baroque Berliner Schloss.

Behind berliner dome is museum island with the royal bridge connecting it o the ‘mainland’. This is also where our fabulous tour finished 🙁

After the tour we headed further up the street to the fernsehturm (TV tower) an east German attempt to show its technological prowess. The view was pretty – pity we had no idea what we were looking at!

From the tower we headed back down Alexander platz and stopped to watch the Berlin Marathon roller bladers (yep a rolling blade 42km marathon thru the streets of Berlin) which was pretty cool.

After the roller blade marathon we headed had some dinner and headed home.

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